I find the current Test match between Australia and New Zealand very interesting. There were 16 wickets today. Just one day – that’s more than you can expect in whole Test in India. And 26 in the first two days. Australia were on top at tea, having ripped out the Kiwis fir just 156. However, it’s anybody’s game with Australia 6/131 at stumps. A lead of just 189. That might already be more than New Zealand’s first innings but the word is that the pitch is still very good.
I’ve been quiet over the past weeks so I’m going to bang on for a short while about Australian cricket and what I think needs to be done.
The selectors need to take control and act decisively. They need to start with the captain. Ponting needs to be relieved of the leadership. Any player can captain a team of champions to win after win. Ponting is found lacking when adversity arises. And Australia is not yet through with adversity. Ponting cannot even admit his mistakes and learn from them, let alone behave graciously. I don’t think Cricket Australia helps. They are interested in making first and foremost and like so many organisations, seem to think that admitting mistakes is bad for business.
Ponting’s behaviour in the final Test against India was disgraceful. I have never seen on a cricket field anything more selfish and unAustralian. Firstly, Ponting was responsible for the slow over rate. And then he insulted his team, who had played themselves back into the match, and the series, by denying them a chance of victory. All to save his own skin for one or two Tests. He was rightly criticised by two of Australia’s greatest captains (Border and Ian Chappell). Rather than saying “Can I come around for a coffee and have a chat, AB?” (CA has advised that modern, professional players do not “come around for a beer”), Ponting denied all wrong doing and basically told the legends of the game to sod off.
When attacked on or off the field, Ponting quickly goes on the defensive. On the field, this is reflected by his negative field placings and uncreative use of bowlers. Ponting seems to have an aversion to slips. He loves 12th man. That Simon Katich did not bowl a ball until the third Test in India was deplorable. Mitchell Johnson needs to be able to bowl at the stumps – left handed bowlers need to take wickets by bringing the ball into right handers and then taking one away. Johnson can’t do that because he bowls to packed off side fields – so he bowls two feet outside of off stump.
I have resigned as James Sutherland’s advisor. When he decided to call Ricky in after the fourth Test debacle, I advised him to take his chance. Ponting was ripe for a coup. I set up a meeting with some of the Big Bank spin doctors (they are the ones who write the letters to make it sound like interest rates and fees going up is a good thing for their customers). I felt that all we needed to do was demote Ricky and make it seem to him like it was a positive. This is what we came up with. It’s rather obvious that Ricky needs to concentrate on his batting. It has suffered with all the stress of leading a losing team. Stepping down will let Ricky keep his average above 55 and allow him to chase Tendulkar’s record. But here’s where the spin doctors earn their money. Ricky is obviously using up all his luck and can’t even win a toss (he’s lost four in a row now). By being spared from the all important toss calling, Punter can save all his luck for the track. Brilliant. However, James was having none of it. So I resigned.
I’d be happy for Clarke to take over, but perhaps he is still young. Here’s one from left field: Simon Katich. Alright, I stole the idea from Tugga. Katich is made of stern stuff. His batting in the past 18 months has shown that and he has proved himself as captain of the Blues. His batting today further supports this. The team needs calm and assured leadership. You can see panic in the little things the team is doing wrong. In the final Test in India, Australia lost three key wickets to run outs (Hayden, Hussey and Ponting) and it happened today with Clarke, the batsman of the match so far, losing his wicket to sloppy running. (BTW, if he’d bothered to run a little harder, Katich would be 5 runs richer, as the direct hit went for four over throws).
Haddin is a dilemma. I don’t think his potential is doubted but his ‘keeping has been no more than acceptable and his batting has disappointed. Perhaps we should not expect another Gillie but this is his 8th Test and he hasn’t bettered 45 not out. And it is not like he has not had chances. Perhaps Luke Ronchi should be warming up.
Hayden’s treatment will be important. I think he gets another Test, at least. He did get two good balls this Test but he’s been out in the first over of the innings three times in the past five Tests.
And Watson. Now I know you all think I have it in for him. But I don’t. I think he was admirable in India and performed to the best of his ability. And some of the time, he was the goods. But not often enough. He had a score of 78 and best bowling of 4/41. If he could do that regularly, he would be a good all rounder to have. He is where the selectors have lost there way. Watson is not going to make it as the third (or fourth seamer). It was fair enough to give Watson a go when Symonds was left out. Watson is more of a batsman than a bowler and he is not a Test number six. He sure is not one of the four best bowlers in the country. So why is he in the team? I think Siddle is worth another look. He performed well on a track, and in conditions that were as far from ideal as possible.
I’m not convinced about Krezja. He deserves more chances and I presume he will play in Adelaide. Let’s remember that he started in conditions that really suited him. BTW, I support him not playing in Brisbane and I think the decision has been vindicated.
If Australia comes out of the series against New Zealand in tact, they be tempted not to make changes and think things are OK. There could be a rude shock just around the corner when the South Africans arrive.